QR codes are just about everywhere these days. According to the Multichannel Merchant Outlook 2012-2013: eCommerce survey and report, the percentage of merchants using the scannable square bar codes has jumped exponentially compared with last year. Fully 47% of merchants are using QR codes now, compared with just 8% a year ago — a more than four-fold increase.
The survey revealed that the majority of participants used QR codes in direct postal mail pieces, perhaps as a means of qualifying for summer price breaks on offer from the U.S. Postal Service for mailers that include QR codes. Printed catalogs were the top means for sharing QR codes, used by 63.2% of those survey respondents using QR codes.
But although it may not buy them a price break at the postage meter, another use for QR codes is just as vital, not to mention potentially profitable. For merchants with physical store locations, QR codes can help combat “showrooming,” — the practice of using bricks-and-mortar outlets to see, touch and try products before using mobile devices to seek the lowest price online, often from a different brand.
While “showrooming” behavior is believed to hurt bricks-and-mortar merchants, the ability to access online information that complements the in-store experience can be a boon to shoppers, and has the potential to help drive in-store sales. In fact, new data from Deloitte suggests that consumers’ in-store mobile activities are contributing to, not taking away from, in-store sales: smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users, according to the study.
QR codes are a powerful way way merchants can swing in-store research behavior in their favor. Because they lead to a specific piece of content, QR codes can help merchants direct shoppers well beyond basic product research to in-depth information that supports the purchase decision.
As we pointed out early this year, it’s crucial to consider QR codes as part of a larger mobile strategy; if you don’t have the basics of mobile commerce in place, it’s probably better to tackle them first before leaping to offer QR codes throughout stores. But if your mobile house is in order, QR codes could be a worthwhile addition to the arsenal, especially with the holiday season coming up. Consider using QR codes to:
Spotlight expert advice and how-tos. Content that demonstrates how items on store shelves can be put to use helps motivate purchasing. The Gap used a QR code to link in-store shoppers to styling advice for a new line of trousers, along with customer reviews.
Link to buying guides and product comparisons. Help shoppers faced with an array of products sort through the options by using a QR code to link to detailed comparisons and recommendations. For the coming holiday season, adapt gift guides to the mobile format and make them available to store shoppers via QR code.
Offer exclusive in-store deals. As an incentive to purchase immediately in stores, consider offering discounts via QR code. To keep the discount offer from breaking your budget, limit it to selected products or set the coupon code to expire within a short time frame — such as within the hour.
Create affinity with the brand and other customers. QR codes can connect in-store shoppers with the community of brand followers, thereby demonstrating how the products on offer fit with shoppers’ lifestyles. Outdoor retaler REI invites in-store shoppers to see how other members of its loyalty club are spending their annual dividend through a QR code displayed in-store — thereby showcasing the brand’s community as well as its selection of products.
Are you planning QR campaigns for the coming holiday season? How are you using QR codes in-store to help drive purchases?